Surviving victims and family members had the chance to make victim impact statements. They could confront the offender and inform the court about the pain and loss caused by the crime.
According to victimsofcrime.org, a victim impact statement (VIS) may be written or oral. It may include the following:
- Physical damage caused by the crime.
- Emotional damage caused by the crime.
- Financial costs to the victim from the crime.
- Medical or psychological treatments required by the victim or his or her family.
- The need for restitution.
- The victim's views on the crime or the offender (in some states).
- The victim's views on an appropriate sentence (in some states).
Victim statements become part of the official record and may be considered by parole boards, probation officers, or correctional institutions. They are also heard by judges before sentencing as in the Loughner case.
Mavanell "Mavy" Stoddard, who had been shot three times and watched her husband die in her arms, made a statement in front of Loughner. "Jared, when you took my precious Dorwan, you ruined my whole life" (WSJ). After expressing the grief and loneliness of losing her love, she said, "We will never let you win. You will not take our spirit" (ABC). In fact, before ending her statement, Mavy told Loughner that she forgave him.
Rep. Ron Barber called for increased awareness and knowledge about mental illness, but he also condemned the shooter's actions in his statement. "You must pay the price for the terror, injuries and deaths you caused".(Barber.House.Gov)
Although Gabby Giffords did not make a statement, she looked Loughner in the eye while her husband, Mark Kelly, made a lengthy statement about pain, lost dreams, and gun control. Standing by his wife, Kelly added, "You may have put a bullet through her head, but you haven't put a dent in her spirit and her commitment to make the world a better place"(ABC).
After all the statements, Judge Larry A. Burns of the U.S. District Court in Tucson sentenced the killer to seven consecutive life sentences plus 140 years in federal prison. "Mr. Loughner will never step outside a prison," the judge said (WSJ). A sentence being handed down 22 months after a mass murder is incredibly quick.
A plea saved Loughner from facing a jury trial and possible federal death penalty. State prosecutors decided not to seek additional charges to spare victims a longer judicial process. Also, the methodical nature of the crime, made it impossible for defence lawyers to seek a complicated insanity plea. Rep. Barber said, "I am grateful that all of us will be spared the painful ordeal of a lengthy legal process followed by unending appeals" (Barber.House.Gov).
In this case, victims had their say and justice was swift.
Giffords Faces Ariz. Shooter for 1st Time in Court, ABCNews, 11-10-12
Loughner Sentenced to 7 consecutive life terms, AZCentral, 11-9-12
Victim Impact Statents, The National Center for Victims of Crime, accessed 11-11-12
Loughner Sentenced to Life, The Wall Street Journal, 11-8-12
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber's Statement at the Sentencing of Jared Lee Loughner, Barber.House.Gov, 11-8-12
Mass Killers Aren't Necessarily Psychopaths, Psychiatrists Explain, The Huffington Post, 8-14-12
Updated: List of Injured Victims in Arizona Shooting Released by Pima County Sheriff, The Washington Post Blog, 1-14-11